In my interview with SEO specialist Kevin Morley of Internet marketing agency Search Path we discuss an interesting perspective on link-building.
For SEO success is competitive markets (aren't they all?) your approach to linkbuilding simply has to be better than the competitors. To review how you successful you are, I recommend using one of the two most established link-building tools Majestic SEO or Linkscape which I covered in my interview with on how to compare link analysis tools.
Of course quality of links is more important than quantity when it comes to links, but as a starting point to benchmark against competitors, try this backlink history comparison tool.
Q1. What is value added link building?
The techniques used to increase the number of inbound links pointing to a given site can be broadly organised into two groups: on one hand, there are traditional, basic techniques, many of which have been used by SEOs for many years, but have been seen to have a decreasing effect on a site"€™s ranking, especially for competitive keywords. On the other hand, there are the newer, more innovative value added techniques that gain freely given, editorial links, links which stand the test of time, and can really positively affect a site"€™s ranking for competitive keywords. I"€™m calling these two approaches "€œOld"€ and "€œNew"€ link building.
Q2. Can you give me some examples of "€œOld"€, traditional techniques?
Traditional techniques include such things as submitting articles to article sites; writing press releases and submitting it to low quality free PR sites; submitting ads to classified sites; or arranging mass link swaps. Because these techniques are so well understood and practiced, their effectiveness has decreased in recent years. In the early days of the web, all it took to get a page one ranking was well optimised keywords meta tag. In the years after Google came online in 1997, this was no longer sufficient. In the late 90"€™s and early noughties, the techniques familiar to the average link builder became established (see above for examples), and these were all that were needed to get to the top spots for competitive keywords. However, in the last couple of years, these techniques have declined in importance due to familiarity in the SEO community and Google improving its algorithm, and new methods needed to be found.
Q3. Can you give examples of innovative value added link building?
If "€œOld"€ link building was about gaming search engines, and manipulating the PageRank algorithm to one"€™s own advantage, then the "€œNew"€ link building sees a return back to traditional marketing principles of brand building, user engagement and customer loyalty. "€œNew"€ link building sees its primary function as marketing; its maxim is the marketing slogan of "€œmake a great product, and tell people about it."€ Links will naturally follow on from the web-based brand building activity, if done correctly.
So the first and most powerful value added technique is to make a great product i.e. a great website, with outstanding content. To be fair, I"€™m not the only one to hold this opinion: building great content is Google"€™s Matt Cutts"€™ favourite link building technique. This technique holds onto two slogans: "€œBuild it and they will come"€, and "€œContent is King."€ On the web, this last one is doubly true: if you write informative, interesting, engaging content on whatever your niche is, then people will want to link to you. Make your content catchy, funny, shocking, useful; anything that differentiates you from your competitors and makes you stand out, and that encourages people to link to you.
A great example of top content leading to links is Wikipedia. This user edited encyclopaedia is the King of content on the web; it is seen as being authoritative on a wide range of topics, and often ranks highly in Google because people have seen the various topic pages on the site as useful informative and worth linking to. The links that the site has gained as a whole has boosted the individual pages ranking.
Q4. Can you give us any more examples of value added "€œNew"€ link building?
The number of techniques that can be employed by a "€œnew"€ link builder is virtually limitless. The main aim of "€œnew"€ link building is to establish and engage a community of loyal customers and fans that will hopefully see linking to you as a natural outgrowth of their engagement with your brand. Anything that establishes a relationship between your brand and the customer will go some way to achieving this.
Places you can do this include Facebook. Forget the image of Facebook groups as just where people show their interest for a cause; instead check out what big brands such as Vodafone and Marks and Spencer are doing on the site. They have established comprehensive groups with blogs, content, user engagement and special offers in a interesting way that is undoubtedly going to attract links for the main sites.
Twitter is another social site where great strides are being made on the value added link building front. The upcoming social site is a great place to brand build and engage customer and prospects not only with news and views about your organisation, but also as a chance to get your personality across. This is a fundamental part of building a brand; you need to have a voice, an identity, and hopefully something to say. Its all about getting noticed, and rising up the "€œhubbub"€ of noise on the web to be distinct and valuable. If you can achieve this identity, people will start to take notice of what you say, and what you represent. This increases the likelihood of people linking to you and boosting your site"€™s ranking in Google.
Q5. So what is the main benefit of "€œNew"€ link building techniques over "€œOld"€?
The main difference between the "€œNew"€ link building and the "€œOld"€ is that the "€œNew"€ link building treats the gaining of inbound links to a site as a side effect of other marketing activity, whereas traditional link builders sees the gaining of links as a direct result of the work they do. This difference signals the change in approach, and results: the links gained by value added link building are generally better quality, freely given, editorial links as opposed to the low grade, contrived, easily achieved links by the traditional link builders.
Because the "€œNew"€ approach is long term and value added, the ranking results it will achieve will be longer lasting and more profound. If done correctly, the results achieved with a value added, "€œNew"€ link building campaign will be even better than what the "€œOld"€ techniques achieved in their heyday. Try it for yourself. See how the linking landscape is changing, and take advantage of the new opportunities that are presenting themselves everyday.